“For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction [as justification for invading Iraq] because it was the one reason everyone could agree on” – Paul Wolfowitz (May 28, 2003)
In light of reports from the medical charity Medecins sans Frontieres that Damascus hospitals have treated thousands of civilians for neurotoxicity – a sign of chemical weapon usage – the international community is considering a response. The Guardian is providing live updates here.
An article at the Information Clearing House website has drawn attention to an internal email (dated December 2011) of the Stratfor ‘global intelligence’ company that was published by WikiLeaks. It is a remarkable email, in that it clearly demonstrates the intent of the US to intervene in the affairs of Syria, and strongly implies that – among many other things – agents from the US, France, Jordan, Turkey, and the UK were already on the ground carrying out reconnaissance and the training of opposition forces.
While the content of the email is unambiguously damning – a clear smoking gun of a plan for regime change in Syria – equally striking is the casual tone of the writer. It is that of an employee who is extremely comfortable, not only in the knowledge that the US will eventually force regime change, but also that a way will be found to make it look good in the media, presumably understanding that another department in the Pentagon or the CIA will handle that side of things. The employee assumes the humdrum tone of a person simply doing what they are expected to do – passing on useful information to his superiors – without any consideration that such actions may be illegal.
This casual approach speaks volumes about the attitude from the very top down of US officials and their employees in the public and private sectors toward the nation’s obligations to international law; namely that any ‘problems’ with such obligations can be worked around to everyone’s satisfaction (at least far enough to get the job done), as demonstrated with the invasion ten years ago of Iraq by the US and its ‘Coalition of the Willing’ without a UN resolution.
Chapter VII of the UN Charter states that nations should settle their differences in a peaceful manner – with two exceptions:
1. If the UN identifies any threat to peace, it may take action by authorizing (via the UN Security Council) willing nation states to intervene.
2. If a nation is acting in self-defense.
In this case neither are viable as permanent members Russia (and probably China) would veto any such resolution. Any attack on Syria by the US and/or any of its allies would hence be illegal under international law.
The UK Foreign Minister William Hague had this to say:
“Of course we want the maximum pressure from world opinion, from diplomatic work, on the Syrian regime not to do these things again. It has to be pointed out that such pressure does not appear to have worked. We have discussed over the last year the smaller scale chemical attacks that the regime has carried over the last year. On every occasion we have given direct messages, sometimes passed to the UN, to the Syrians not to do that. We have discussed it with the Russians and indeed sometimes the Syrians have heard from the Russians and the Iranians that they should not conduct chemical attacks. This does not appear to have worked because here is a large-scale chemical attack for which there is no plausible explanation other than that it has been carried out by the Assad regime.”
“The Assad regime did this. The use of chemical weapons in the 21st century, on a large scale like this, cannot go unaddressed, cannot be ignored. Our position is the same as France and the US.”
A Reuters/Ipsos poll finds that around 60 percent of Americans think the United States should not intervene in Syria’s civil war, while just 9 percent believe Barack Obama should act. The poll found that a majority opposes intervention even if chemical weapons are used in Syria.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that hysteria is growing and that Washington, Paris and London have produced no evidence of the perpetrators of the chemical attack. He says that he is skeptical about Western chemical weapon claims and that any use of force in Syria without a UN Security Council mandate would be a ‘blatant violation of international law’.
A year ago Barack Obama stated that use of chemical weapons by the Assad government would change his stance and cross a ‘red line’. Putting aside the fact that this is a propaganda device designed for easy mass media regurgitation – like the ‘axis of evil’ – it appears that the red line has now been crossed and the public has been well prepared for it by the media whether they want action or not. It seems that after the Iraq debacle, the US government has learned that it should at least appear reluctant and reasonable before taking military action – no ‘bring it on’ rhetoric.
High-level officials from the US, France and the UK have stated unequivocally that they believe Bashar al-Assad’s forces carried out the attack with chemical weapons. This may sound familiar to readers, as such certainty has been expressed by US officials before – before the Iraq invasion:
Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.
Dick Cheney, August 26, 2002
Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.
George W. Bush, September 12, 2002
If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.
Ari Fleischer, December 2, 2002
The president of the United States and the secretary of defense would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it.
Ari Fleischer, December 6, 2002
We know for a fact that there are weapons there.
Ari Fleischer, January 9, 2003
Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.
George W. Bush, January 28, 2003
We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.
Colin Powell, February 5, 2003
The world’s media must therefore urgently demand the following:
1. The presentation of irrefutable and conclusive evidence regarding the identity of the perpetrators of this attack as well as the presentation of the evidence already cited by top-level officials (before any examination of the scene by UN investigators).
2. An explanation of why President Assad would order such an act in the knowledge that it would give the US and its allies the perfect excuse to destroy his military capabilities and bring about his downfall, particularly in light of the revelations in the hacked Stratfor email, and given that there is no reason why Mr Assad would rely on a Russian veto after the precedent set in Iraq.
An exclusive report published today shows that the US allowed Saddam Hussein to use chemical weapons on Iranian troops. When one also considers the well-documented US use of Agent Orange as part of its chemical weapons program in Vietnam (Operation Ranch Hand) and its dropping of millions of cluster bombs on Laos that kill and maim civilians even today, not to mention the biological and chemical experiments it carried out on its own troops and people (often without their knowledge), it becomes clear that the credibility of the US on the issue of WMDs is zero; and that of its allies – by servile association – is also non-existent.
In order to preserve innocent lives, the media must hold belligerent world leaders to account and demand irrefutable evidence while at the same time eliminating all other possible explanations (like false flags). More than a million people have died in Iraq because of the West’s ‘intervention’ and dozens more die in sectarian violence every day. The criminal negligence and even outright cheerleading of major media organs in the run-up to the Iraq War must not be repeated.
Note: It was Jeremy Hammond’s hacking of Stratfor that brought the intent of the US in Syria to the attention of the public. While the hacking of private data is (and should be) a crime, if the private data contains evidence of government collusion with private companies to commit illegal acts, the hack then becomes an act of whistleblowing. Support Jeremy Hammond here.
Simon Wood (Twitter: @simonwood11) is the author of ‘The 99.99998271%: Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy‘ and the founder of The Movement, a non-profit organization dedicated to peace, justice and democracy. Please follow and support The Movement on Twitter: @1themovement as it strongly urges all progressive movements to unite and pool their resources in the common goal of removing the cancer of corruption that threatens us all. You can also follow Simon Wood on Facebook and at his blog.
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